COLONIE Nearly one year after mercury was discovered in the floor drains at a town water treatment plant, the Colonie Town Board passed a resolution on Thursday, Feb. 7, allowing mercury spill remediation to begin.
Levels of mercury were found at the High Lift Pumping Station at the Mohawk View Water Treatment Plant in April of 2012 during a valve replacement. Since the discovery was made, town engineers and members of the Department of Public Works have met with the Department of Environmental Conservation to determine the required clean up procedures.
The floor drains also flow through a pipe that leads out into a wetland area that could possibly been contaminated by the mercury. Now that the resolution is passed, repairs will consist of analyzing soil samples from the field as well as removing the floor drains.
Town of Colonie Department of Public Works Commissioner Jack Cunningham emphasized the situation does not affect the town’s drinking water.
“This stuff was never near drinking water and has no impact on health,” Cunningham said. “If there was a health issue, (DEC would) be very vocal.”
Cunningham said the mercury most likely came from equipment that was used in the 1960s when the plant was built but was removed years ago and replaced with new equipment when the plant was updated in 2005. Cunningham said the town is not sure when the mercury spill happened, but when the plant first opened decades ago there was no standard to clean up mercury. If there had been a spill then, workers probably would have just washed it down the floor drain.
Cunningham said the DEC is requiring the town to test soil samples from the field near the pumping station to get a sense where — or if — any of the mercury ended up in the soil. The soil also floods from the Mohawk River, Cunningham said, and it is possible the mercury in the soil could be from older contamination spills brought from upstream. The town must wait for the snow to melt before starting soil testing.